Why Celtic Park can't host Hearts supporters this weekend

By Euan Davidson

August 10, 2021

For the Celtic Park faithful, three home games in a week is a bit of a gift, with the third coming against Hearts.

Granted, it was limited capacity against Dundee, for our blistering 6-0 win. The numbers will be far greater when Jablonec travel to Glasgow for a Thursday night meeting. Then, on Sunday, it’s the return of the League Cup, with the Jambos heading down the M8.

They won’t be bringing supporters with them, though.

It’d be easy to write “it’s always a feisty encounter when Hearts come to town”. Or how it’s a shame that we can’t have visiting fans at Celtic Park when Hearts arrive at Paradise on Sunday.

It’s just, for all the talk of sell-out crowds, Covid-19 restrictions are still in place. Huge crowds at Celtic Park? Yes. However, the situation we find ourselves in, currently, means that absolute packed-to-the-rafters affairs are still a wee while off.

Why, though? Why can’t Hearts fans come to Celtic Park? Well, it’s actually quite simple.

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67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

While social distancing rules have cooled in most scenarios [BBC], significant attendances at football stadia are still being watched with a weary eye. As such, “Red Zones” still feature in certain locales, areas which need to be sterilised and kept clear to prevent contamination between groups of people.

In this case it’s employees of a football club, who have their own guidelines, and supporters.

Hearts announced on Twitter:

Hearts fans won’t be happy, but Celtic Park needs to be kept safe

What short memories people have. Only a week ago, Celtic supporters weren’t allowed in Tynecastle. Because, and you’ll have no doubt heard, there’s still a pandemic raging on.

Big home crowds, and either few away fans or none at all. That’s how it looks as if it’ll be for the foreseeable. It’s a reasonable compromise if it means we can, en masse, get back to Celtic Park to cheer on the Bhoys.

Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

Footballers, as elite athletes, still require their own “bubble”, in terms of Coronavirus restrictions. Therefore, Red Zones are likely a mainstay in stadia nationwide for the next few months, at least.

Why, there are Red Zones at Tynecastle, after all [Edinburgh Evening News].

So yes, opposition supporters will rage. When it comes to Celtic supporters in the Main Stand being moved from their regular seat, there’s understandable opprobrium there, too.

It’s not ideal, it’s not optimum. We want to be able to do all the things we used to, and that includes away days, in our thousands. These rules hinder us, too, in the pursuit of normality on match-days.

Still, this is a long, long way better from where we were even a month ago. Yes, it’s annoying, and it means we’re likely to see more surprising home wins league-wide until things change.

To lob any criticism Celtic’s way over this, though, is entirely without reason. It’s a nationwide protocol, it’s not exclusive to us, and it might be this way for a while yet.

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